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Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

MEN OF MATHEMATICS
a laudable custom in connexion with the taking of a Ph.D.: the
successful candidate was in honour bound to fling a party -
usually a prolonged beer bust with all the trimmings - for his
examiners. At such festivities a mock examination consisting
of ridiculous questions and more ridiculous answers was some-
times part of the fun. Kronecker invited practically the whole
faculty 3 including the Dean, and the memory of that undignified
feast in celebration of his degree was, he declared in later years,
the happiest of his life.
In at least one respect Kronecker and his scientific enemy
Weierstrass were much alike: they were both very great gentle-
men, as even those who did not particularly care for either
admitted. But in nearly everything else they were almost
comically different. The climax of Kronecker's career was his
prolonged mathematical war against Weierstrass, in which
quarter was neither given nor asked. One was a born algebraist,
the other almost made a religion of analysis. Weierstrass was
large and rambling, Kronecker a compact, diminutive man,
not over five feet tall, but perfectly proportioned and sturdy.
After his student days Weierstrass gave up his fencing;
Kronecker was always an expert gymnast and swimmer and in
later life a good mountaineer.
Eye-witnesses of the battles between this curiously mis-
matched pair tell how the big fellow, annoyed by the persistence
of the little fellow, would stand shaking himself like a good-
natured St Bernard dog trying to rid himself of a determined
fly, only to excite his persecutor to more ingenious attacks, till
Weierstrass, giving up in despair, would amble off, Kronecker
at his heels still talking maddeningly. But for all their scientific
differences the two were good friends, and both were great
mathematicians without a particle of the 'great man' complex
that too often inflates the shirts of the would-be mighty.
Kronecker was blessed with a rich uncle in the banking busi-
ness. The uncle also controlled extensive farming enterprises.
AH this fell into young Kronecker s hands for administration on
the death of the uncle, shortly after the budding mathematician
had taken his degree at the age of twenty-two. The eight years
from 1845 to 1853 were spent in managing the estate and run-
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